|Important note about plant availability.
There are hundreds of factsheets on our website provided for your information. Not all plants will be available at all times throughout the year. To confirm availability please call (03) 8850 3030 and ask for the nursery.
Basil is one of the best known herbs in the world, and with good reason. It’s tasty, attractive and very easy to grow. With over 100 different species to choose from, Basil is never faulty!
The most common type of basil grown in the home patch is sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), a large fleshy leaved annual, but keep an eye out for these other varieties next time you’re at BAAG.
Thai Basil: A very attractive basil with fine, elongated leaves and a slight licorice / aniseed flavour. Fantastic in Asian inspired cooking.
Perennial Basil: As the name suggests, this basil can actually be grown over several seasons, unlike many of the other varieties. A pleasant, mild basil flavour, perennial basil can be used fresh or dried.
Lemon Basil: Not surprisingly, this basil has a distinct lemon flavour, and is a beauty in both marinades, vinegars and even sweet dishes like fruit salads.
Cinnamon Basil: A slightly fussy short-lived annual, Cinnamon Basil has a delicious cinnamon flavour, and is a real treat in salads, marinades and sweet dishes.
Greek Basil: A fast growing, compact basil with smaller leaves. Often foliage is dried and used in herb mixes.
Basil doesn’t really like the cold, which is good news for people in warmer areas, but can lead to problems in colder regions, especially those affected by frost. Sweet basil a summer growing annual, meaning that (in theory) basil will die back once the cold hits every year.
So, where to position your basil? The hot tip would be somewhere… well… hot! Basil loves full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, especially in the warmer months of the year. In the cooler months, increase your chances of success by ensuring your basil has at least four hours of sun each day.
Sweet Basil loves a rich soil full of organic matter, but is doesn’t like chicken manure. Try enriching your soil with compost… your basil will thank you for it! The more fertile your soil is, the better flavour and performance your basil will have. And, as with all our vegie patch favourites, mulch with pea straw or similar.
Basil likes food, and lots of it! Sweet basil is what we call a gross feeder and will eat anything it is given. Liquid seaweed, worm farm liquid or liquid manure is the best, and these should be applied fairly frequently through the growing season, for fragrant, healthy, tasty basil. And remember… the more you pick, the more you need to feed!
Basil likes it fairly damp (NOT soaking wet), but check soil moisture before watering. Water in the morning, and avoid watering the foliage, especially as weather cools. Basil should never be watered with greywater.
There is no set time to eat basil… essentially any time you feel like it is great. And remember, the more you eat, the better the plant will be, especially if you give it a feed after using. Pick often to prevent the Basil going leggy and setting seed too early, leaving you loving your basil for longer. The pretty purple/white flowers should be removed too if you want luscious leaves and fragrant flowers for longer.
Basil can have a few pest and disease issues, but one thing is guaranteed… if you plant it, they will come (they being snails and caterpillars). Try some beer traps for the snails, and treat any caterpillar action with Dipel or Success (available in the shop at the nursery).
Tulsi, Sacred Basil or Holy Basil?
As more interesting and exotic herbs from various cultures enter into the mainstream gardening world, there is often confusion in respect to the names and identities of the plants in question. One such plant is Tulsi, also confusingly referred to as Holy Basil or Sacred Basil. Common names can be a nightmare for horticulturists, as a single common plant name may refer to two or more quite different plants which may be closely related or sometimes completely unrelated.
Tulsi is a common name which refers to many varieties of basil that are of significance in the Indian subcontinent. What distinguishes them from many other basils is the presence of large amounts of the compound eugenol which imparts a clove-like aroma. What differentiates the various varieties of Tulsi from each other is their appearance, cold hardiness and how they are used traditionally.
Many varieties of Tulsi or Holy Basil can be found in the Indian subcontinent, but to simplify matters, it’s easier to consider the three main varieties, which also happen to be the varieties available in Australia.
Holy Basil also known as Sacred Basil, Wild Tulsi, Forest Tulsi or Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum) is a different species to the other two. It’s a large vigorous plant growing to 3m tall x 2m wide in its native climate. It can be distinguished by its larger broad green leaves, green stems and short flower heads. This plant is used as a ceremonial herb in Indian spiritual traditions.
Tulsi plant, also known as Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum syn. Ocimum sanctum), is a small delicate plant growing to 60cm in height. It is identifiable by its smaller purple or dark green leaves with purple veins, and dark purple stems. It also has a characteristic taste, which is described as peppery, sharp and crisp. This plant is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
Green Leaf Tulsi, also known as Rama Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum syn. Ocimum sanctum), is the same species as Krishna Tulsi, so it has a similar form, but this variety has green leaves, and grows to around 90cm in height. Unlike the other larger-growing green-leafed Vana Tulsi, this plant has smaller, more elongated leaves and produces long flower heads. It has a distinctive taste that is described as slightly sweet, cooling, and mellower than the other Tulsi varieties. Rama Tulsi is the most fragrant of all the Tulsi varieties, the scent is a combination of the characteristic Tulsi clove-like scent, together with that of aniseed, lemon and peppermint. This plant is also used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
These three varieties of Tulsi are perennial in warmer climates, but are treated as summer annuals if grown in cooler temperate climates outdoors. Vana Tulsi is a more cold tolerant species than Krishna and Rama Tulsi, and may survive in a protected sunny location outdoors planted near a north or west facing wall that retains the heat at night in winter, but all three can be grown in pots and kept in a bright sunny location indoors over winter.